If you were to ask someone what the biggest change is between the 2019 Overwatch Season and last year’s season, the most likely response would be all the new teams joining the league. With 8 new teams participating in the new season, the games will be even more exciting and diverse. In addition, there is a high probability that a new star could be born.
Amongst all the new teams that are throwing their hat in the ring, one team that stands out is Hangzhou Spark, a team built from X6 Gaming, who previously dominated the Korean Contenders. The Chinese team had lacking performance last season, but they have Guxue this time. Being one of China’s most talented candidates, Guxue played a vital role in his previous team’s run at the World Cup. With their promising roster, Hangzhou Spark has been able to gain support from both Korean and Chinese fans to start of their 2019 season.
Hangzhou Spark has a new adventure waiting for them, but before they embark, Inven was able to sit down with Mask, Head Coach for Spark, and GodsB (Former leader for X6) in order to hear about their goals for the upcoming season.
¤ It is great to finally meet you guys. Could you first briefly introduce yourselves?
Mask: Hi, I am Mask. The acting Head Coach for Hangzhou Spark.
GodsB: Hello! I am Hangzhou Spark’s newly recruited DPS player, 'GodsB'.
¤ Although it is a bit late, I want to congratulate you guys on making it to the league. How have you guys been since the Contenders?
GodsB: We got a vacation after season 2 of Contenders. During that time, I was able to rest to make up for all the times I couldn’t. I just spent time with my family and friends.
¤ (To Mask) You have been appointed as the very first Coach for Hangzhou Spark. How did you get into contact with Hangzhou?
There was a time during the end of season 1 when I was acting as a temporary coach for the Shanghai Dragons. During my time there, I believe the representatives and staff gave me a positive review. Because of this, word must have spread to the people at Hangzhou Spark. Around August, I started to get contacted by Hangzhou Spark. I think winning the Contenders had a lot to do with it. Maybe because I was able to make a good impression and get great results at the same time (laughs)?
¤ (To Mask) X6 was the most popular team in season 1 and won the Contenders. You must have gotten more requests from teams than just Hangzhou?
To be honest, I did have a lot of requests. A few players reached out to me alongside teams as well. Hence why I was in a predicament. After putting the quality of a team’s player treatment as my priority, I came to the decision to go with Hangzhou. I really liked the players, and they let me constantly communicate with the players.
¤ (To Mask) If so, what was the final push to get you to decide to go with Hangzhou Spark?
I had visited the Chinese Contenders, and the owner of Hangzhou Spark had personally invited me to the event. I was able to meet him in person and have a conversation. From that point onwards, I realized and decided that I was going to go with Hangzhou Spark.
¤ (To GodsB) How did you feel when Hangzhou first contacted you? There must have been a plethora of teams wanting to grab you?
All the contacts I got were from my coach’s connections. It was honestly amazing to know that there were so many teams that were interested in me. I just felt really good knowing that I was getting approached.
¤ (To Mask) Hangzhou has recruited a coach and several players from Seven. How did you get in contact with them?
Prior to Sup7eme joining the team, I had actually known him during Contenders. I knew Sup7eme because he was organizing esports events near Yeoksam. Ever since then, I was always working with him. He helped our team both directly and indirectly
To be honest, it is not easy to find Overwatch coaches who are close to my age. I think this is why Sup7eme and I got along so well. But, in regards to players, it was a pressed-on rule to select players based solely on their ability. While I did talk to many players other than the players in Seven, several players had already joined the Korean league. Also, most players had signed with teams to partake in the Contenders. This is why I decided to recruit from Seven.
¤ (To Mask) Probably the most surprising part was that Guxue, China’s representative player, joined the team. Was Guxue recruited from Hangzhou’s front and not your own?
There was a consensus between the head of Hangzhou Spark and myself. Since the majority of players on the team were already Korean, I wanted to form a team that can best serve both Korean and Chinese fans. Guxue’s recruitment began thanks to the combined effort of the director and I.
In addition, Guxue’s previous team, LGD Gaming, was a team we always scrimmed together with. Because of this, I knew a lot about the players on LGD. As scrims and games in Contenders passed by, I kept a close eye on Guxue. Due to his amazing performance at the World Cup, I am ever so glad to have him on my team (laughs).
¤ (To GodsB) As a player on the team, have you played a lot with Guxue? What kind of player do you think he is?
I played a lot of scrims against Guxue and played with him a ton after the roster announcement. When you meet him in person, he is pretty funny. Guxue likes physical contact (laughs). He is incredibly talented as well. Guxue is so good that there really is no need for communication. For lack of a better word, Guxue is purely insane.
¤ (To GodsB) With the start of a season, you will have to spend the majority of your time in LA. As a young player, are your parents concerned? How did your parents respond when you became a pro?
In the case of my parents, they didn’t worry too much. Since I am traveling in order to do something I want to do, the only thing they said was “Have fun and come back safe”. I heard that a lot of players who go overseas struggle due to the food. For me, I actually like American food (laughs).
¤ (To GodsB) I heard you had a recent fan meeting in China. How was it?
Despite us not playing a single game yet, there were so many more fans than I ever expected. They had a lot of questions and gave even more support. For that, I am forever thankful.
¤ (To GodsB) You will be playing with a player whom you had faced many times in the last Contenders; Bazzi. Could you compare your strengths and weaknesses with Bazzi?
Our hero pools are vastly different. If Bazzi is more proficient at hitscan heroes, I am more effective on projectile-based heroes? But in all honesty, I think we are relatively the same.
¤ (To GodsB) Compared to the other teams’ DPS players, who do you think Hangzhou’s DPS stands up?
There are a lot of teams with several DPS players, but then again there are also teams with little to no DPS players. However, with regards to teams like these, the entire balance of a team can be put in jeopardy if the DPS hits a slump. Our team is not like that. We have 4 DPS players, and we have divided our roles to pairs. This is why I believe there won’t be any real concerns regarding our balance apart from player condition.
¤ (To GodsB) There are several players in the league that associate themselves with a specific hero (eg: Pine’s Widowmaker, Fragi’s Reinhardt, Fury’s D.Va). What heroes do you want people to associate you with?
Hm.... I guess I want people to see me as a player who is better than everyone else (laughs)? That would be ideal.
¤ (To GodsB) Last season, many players displayed amazing performances. Was there a player in particular that you always wanted to defeat/overcome?
To be honest, I beat every player at least once. Hence, I don’t really have the urge to defeat a certain player. Granted, there are a lot of players that make the game interesting to play. This is because there are several talented and experienced players. Especially in the US, people call the tri-force of players Carpe, JJonak, and Fury. It always feels so good when I go up against those players and win.
¤ Hangzhou Spark is apparently famous for being extremely serious. When you went to China recently, were you able to get a feel of how Hangzhou operates?
Mask: Of course. On my trip to China, I went to the headquarters of Hangzhou Spark. There, I was able to go inspect the practice rooms. As I was looking around, rather than extreme seriousness, I felt an openness in the atmosphere. Unlike the norm of what a company would feel like, every employee’s desk had at least 1 or 2 figurines.
GodsB: To be honest, I think all the company’s figurines are incredibly cute (laughs). There are figurines all over the place, even on the walls. The figurines on the walls are also adorable.
¤ (To Mask) When the ‘League-Contenders-Open Divison’ structure was announced, there were some people who were concerned. As a head coach that experienced the Contenders, what would be needed for this structure to improve?
Honestly, I am rather cautious when talking about this issue. Personally, I think there should be a concrete rule or regulation on boosting. In the OWL, there are some regulations and solutions for it but there’s nothing in the leagues that are lower in tier including the Contenders. Now that there is a structure between the Contenders and OWL, I wish the people who manage the Contenders would take a clear stance on this issue.
I think making a clean esports culture is very important. As a matter of fact, some gaming organizations that agree with me are doing a lot to make some change. However, it is true that there are also others that do not take this seriously. If those teams deliver good results or even make it to OWL without any sanctions, it will highly discourage other gaming organizations that take this as a serious issue.
The reason why I went along well with teams like Mystic and RunAway is because we shared the same thoughts since we had some difficulties with managing teams as coach-owners. However, most importantly, we had a consensus on making esports’ culture clean. We believe that if these issues are ignored, it will have a negative effect on Overwatch esports in the long run.
To make the OWL system more virtuous, finding and developing players in the Open Division and Contenders is very important. I think we need more support on this front. Similar to the OWL which now has a lot more teams competing, there should be more sponsors in the Contenders as well. Then, more teams will be created and players would get the chance to be trained. However, in Korea, there aren’t a lot of companies that are willing to sponsor a gaming organization. If they do think of sponsoring a team, it’s nearly impossible to find one that would support a Contenders team. Most of the focus is on the OWL so it’s reasonable for sponsors to support an OWL team. That’s why I’m wishing for more ways for Contenders teams to get sponsors.
¤ I thought that X6 Gaming had quite a nice practice and living environment. So, this wasn’t an easy thing to do, correct?
Yes. To be honest, in Korea, it’s not easy to manage a contenders gaming organization. It’s especially tough financially. Like you’ve stated, X6 was known as a ‘luxurious’ team since long before, but I had to personally invest a lot of my money as well.
However, I tried to make it public that we currently have numerous investments and support. Then people would start to think,“That team is managed by an individual and giving that much good support to the players. Well, if a team is sponsored by corporations, they’d at least give the same amount of respect.”
¤ Since Shanghai did not perform at its best last season, you might have been pressured to join as a Chinese franchise. Do you feel any pressure towards delivering good results?
GodsB: If we perform well, the results will follow. That’s why I’m not too worried about that.
Mask: I don’t have a lot of concerns either. Still, I do think, ‘among the Chinese teams, we should be the best’. To be frank, at this point, I just want the league to start and I want to deliver good results in it.
¤ Like you’ve stated, there will be some heated competition since the number of Chinese teams increased. You’ll also be facing Shanghai for the opening match.
Mask: Yeah, I did see that and it does affect my nerves a bit. (laughs) Although Shanghai wasn’t that good last season, they’ve signed on some new players in their roster and they seem very motivated as well. I think they’ll become a much more improved team.
GodsB: We have to win no matter what. Although it will be our debut match, I don’t want to become the first victims of Shanghai. Even if we lose once against them and win 27 games straight, it’d still feel very uncomfortable.
Mask: Phew...I don’t even want to imagine that happening. We’ll have to prepare very hard.
¤ For the next season, more teams will compete but each team won’t be facing the same teams as much as they did in the last season. With this new change brought in, what do you think would be more important?
Mask: First of all, it’d be important to win every single game. Well, we’ll be facing each team in our division twice so it would be important to not lose against them. Also, winning the division itself gives some benefits so I think it is better to make use of that advantage.
GodsB: On the other hand, we’ll only go against the teams in the other division just once. If we can manage to dominate them, we might be able to gain a mental advantage when we meet them again in the Playoffs.
¤ Currently, are there any notable teams? Or which team do you think would be a strong competitor?
Mask: Well, I think the San Fransico Shock would be a tough competitor. As a matter of fact, I already know some of their team officials. They also have my former teammates, ChoiHyoBin and Architect.
GodsB: London is a very good team so I’d be pressured when going against them. I’m also quite curious about how many games Shanghai will win. As Mask said, I also have my former teammates [in San Fransisco]. So, I’d pick those 3 teams as the strongest competitors.
¤ Can you give us your expectations for the next season as well as for your team’s performance?
Mask: I think there will be a big performance gap in the Atlantic Division. It’s hard to pick a few teams but I do think that the gap between the better teams and the weaker teams is quite big. On the other hand, I think the Pacific Division, where we’ll be performing, doesn’t have that much of a gap. We’ll have to try to earn as many points as possible and advance directly to the Playoffs.
GodsB: I agree too. The players do say that the Atlantic Division has clear favorites. Although it’s really hard to anticipate what will happen in our division, for sure my team will make it high up in the standings; I’m going to make that happen.
¤ (To GodsB) What are your personal goals as a player?
League MVP, no doubt.
¤ Then, who would be some of the favorites for the MVP?
I’d have to pick the tri-force. Carpe, JJonak, and Fury (laughs).
¤ Lastly, do you have anything to say or any resolutions you’d like to share with the Hangzhou fans?
Mask: Well, it was pretty much the same when we started the Contenders but if someone asks about which team will win the league title at this point, I’m assuming that they’ll pick the better teams such as New York or London. However, no one chose us as the favorites when we first competed in the Contenders. Still, we managed to claim the title. It’s pretty much the same. Although we are not recognized as a favorite, we’ll try our best to surprise everyone. Please stay tuned!
GodsB: I’m representing Hangzhou for the 2019 Overwatch League. I know that the better teams are receiving more attention than us. I want to prove that we’re also capable of playing alongside those stronger teams. I’m going to work harder and try to make that happen. Also, I’d like to thank all my fans who’ve been rooting for me and my team during my pro days in Korea. I want to ask for your support in the future as well. Thank you!